By on November 6, 2013
William (no longer TTAC’s tiburon_guy) writes:
Hey Buddy, I am no longer tiburon_guy since we sold it (sad face – SM) but I do have a question that a friend asked me about. He has a 2002 Escalade EXT he bought new (demo actually, 300 miles on it) now it’s at 60k and overall no major issues. He’s attached to the truck and rightfully so, as in my opinion it’s the best model Escalade created by GM.

His question is with it getting up in age (11 years) he’s worried about what to expect trouble wise down the road and if he should part with it soon or keep hold of it due to the low mileage (and garage kept since day one) so it looks pristine. The resell on this truck is pitiful but he also doesn’t want to be stranded. Have you heard any bad things about the 2002 model year of Escalade EXT? I’ve done a little digging but haven’t come up with much.

Additionally, my 2010 Ranger XLT is still kicking ass and taking names, but I wanted to know if you had heard any more of the 5.0L engine swap for our Ranger?

Sajeev answers:

Aside from the well documented piston slap problem on LS-based Vortec truck engines, there’s really nothing to worry about.  Yes, it’s an older vehicle and things will always go wrong, but the old Chevy Tahoe underneath the Escalade EXT isn’t exactly striking fear into my heart. Even piston slap isn’t a deal breaker, it’s more of an annoyance that a local engine builder can fix whenever your friend wants a fresh engine…which will be a long, loooong time from now.

So what’s left?  A lot of eyeballing and preventative maintenance: fluid changes, rubber product changes (vac lines, belts, hoses, etc) and other wear items that people tend to forget.  If that hyperlink scares him off, he either needs a replacement vehicle or a second vehicle to ease the burden.  Both can be fun and affordable if done correctly.

Now about the fantabulousness that is the Ford Ranger: the 5.0 Windsor swap’s been done many times before and this link is helpful.  I especially like the job done by this guy, the attention to detail is quite excellent. Check out the interior swap from a Ford Explorer Limited, complete with all the buttons on the steering wheel, automatic HVAC and the fancy trip computer!

WOW, what a luxury truck!!!

Now were you talking about the 5.0 Coyote swap?  Looks like that famously swapped Coyote Ranger has been dead in the water since the initial media buzz.  Which is sad, but maybe they worked out the wiring, induction, chassis upgrades, transmission change, driveline change, drivability, accessories, HVAC plumbing, etc…or perhaps not.

And maybe you have $20,000-30,000 lying around.  But if you did, you’d keep the Ranger, get an 5.0 windsor Explorer Limited for that swap, and use the remaining cash for a new 5.0 Coyote Mustang down payment.  Because no matter what, you’ll need a better daily driver than a project truck.


Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.


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16 Comments on “Piston Slap: Escalading on Thin Ice?...”

  • avatar

    The GMT-800 Escalade is a reasonably trouble free rig with reasonably cheap replacement parts available from OEM and aftermarket sources.

    One thing to be cognizant of is the transmission cooler lines as they have a tendency to leak. Replacement parts are cheap, but the labor can be a bit spendy.

    If it has the rear air suspension the compressors tend to go out as do the bags that they compress. If you’re rolling in a Caddy like this, then the $1500 + repair bill to make it right shouldn’t be a bother.

    If it has rear A/C, sometimes the exposed lines corrode and leak and need replaced. Again, cheap parts, a bit more on labor. This usually happens on the ESV models however.

    The biggest concern I’d have about owning an EXT model would be finding replacement body cladding panels and rear bed cover panels as these were pretty low volume pieces to begin with and I don’t think replacement pieces are currently being made. They’re extremely expensive even if you can find them.

    I’d just drive it and stay on top of maintenance and it’ll treat you well.

  • avatar

    Engine swaps are always a blast, but why not swap the whole truck for a 4.6 V8 Sport Trac of the same year?

  • avatar

    If it’s a 5.3L Rear drive model-probably nothing to worry about. I think the 6.0 AWD models are known to have had some tranny/diff problems which could get expensive-but certainly less money than buying another vehicle.

  • avatar

    I personally hate the “badge whore” comment, but really if any vehicle deserved it, it’s a Cadillac pick-up.

  • avatar

    GMT-800 anything, watch the brake lines for rust.

  • avatar

    LS truck engines from those years had a tendency to break the rear most exhaust manifold bolts off at the head creating an exahust tick. Not the worst thing to fail, but can be a PITA to fix. It’s a tight spot for an easy out and often they break off flush. Not much you can do to prevent it, and it really won’t affect the suage of the vehicle, but it’s something to keep an ear out for.

  • avatar

    This has a 413 HP VVT 6.0 L76 under the hood with an AWD system.

    From a serviceability stand point this is one of the most drop dead simple vehicles to work with. As others have noted brake lines are something to keep an eye on at this point, but I wouldn’t panic with low miles and a garage kept cream puff.

    Any interior bits that could break like the climate control interface, stereo, or practically any of the switch gear that could eventually wear out can be replaced by a child (if I can swap an instrument cluster in a GMT800 in 10 minutes, anyone can do it).

    Window trim around the removable back glass can crack, causing a water leak at the Midgate. Cracks happen from severe chassis flex when off-roading, doesn’t sound like that is an issue. A handful left the factory in 2002 with bad shocks, there is a TSB but it would have absolutely raised it’s ugly head by now. On the climate control there is a baffle that is actuated, the ducting is behind the glovebox (easy to remove) and the baffle can separate from the mechanical actuator. There is also a TSB, but again after 11 years if this hasn’t reared it’s ugly head, I doubt it will, and can be fixed in a driveway (although not a child grade project).

    The cargo panels can fade and get “zebra striped” but again garage kept UV exposure likely not a big deal. There is a number of solutions now to restore,

    This sounds like it’s been babied and as such, your friend with regular care, fluid swaps, and watching for critical wear easily has another 8 to 10 years with the EXT.

    If your friend has not been to they should join. A lot of info on the EXT and Avalanche, about 40K members. They are a very strong community

    • 0 avatar

      “This has a 413 HP VVT 6.0 L76 under the hood with an AWD system.”

      You’re thinking of the 07+ models which was the 6.2L

      This is a 2002, it would have the LQ9 6.0L non VVT motor rated at 345hp.

      • 0 avatar

        You’re correct – don’t know why I thought it had the VVT in 2002. The Avalanche got an optional L76 for a few model years.

        • 0 avatar

          Yeah the Votec MAX. I’ve ripped a few of these motors out for hot rod swaps and have gotten a litte familiar with the production codes. The LQ is the bargain performance motor of the decade.

  • avatar

    “I wouldn’t trade my Chevrolet for Escalade or your freak parade…” – Big & Rich

    But seriously this platform is likely the best GM built during the time they built it.

  • avatar

    My old boss had three of these. TTAC has educated me they weren’t HD spec like I thought but still hella versatile.

  • avatar

    you said “piston slap”

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